Mr. Draper is a tech-first business

Rupkatha Bhowmick

UAE-based, home-grown fashion brand Mr. Draper is built around offering a curated shopping experience for men. The brand has recorded a year-on-year order growth of 70%. It was named the ‘Most Admired Start-up of the Year’ at the RetailME Awards 2019.

So, what makes Mr. Draper special?

The core idea is to make the shopping experience hassle-free for its audience. Based on size and style inputs provided by the customer, Mr. Draper stylists hand-pick outfits from a brand mix, including Ralph Lauren, Hackett, Lacoste, Scotch and Soda, Ami and J shoes, to name a few. These outfits are then sent to the customer’s doorstep to try on within five days. They can keep whatever they like and return the remaining in original condition, and Mr. Draper charges for the items that the customer purchased.

“Right from inception, we built our model by leveraging technology,” said founder & CEO, Mahmoud Gao. “We didn’t take a brick-and-mortar approach; instead, we started with the online styling service offering personalisation and convenience to our customers. They are happy to provide us with details about their size and preference – styles, cuts, brands and budget. Then our stylists and algorithm leverage this data to curate a box of outfits to deliver it to their doorstep.”

Based on a highly personalised experience, Mr. Draper recorded 57% customer retention rate during 2019. “Our customers use our service more than three times in a year, with the average spend being $250 per basket,” Gao revealed.

To build on this experience and resonate with more people, Mr. Draper undertook several initiatives throughout 2019. One of them is the launch of a tech-improved recommendation engine on its website. “The recommendation engine has reduced the need for more stylists even if the number of customers increases because the majority of the work in curating the boxes is done via the recommendation engine, helping each stylist to do more boxes,” Gao pointed out.

As a technology-first company, Mr. Draper analyses customer data carefully to offer the right options. So far, the brand hasn’t collaborated with any third-party and does everything in-house.

“So far, we have focused on two areas – artificial intelligent (AI) and built infrastructure to run our service. The AI-based system uses data emerging from customers and brands. While signing up for our service, the customer shares invaluable data about their preferences, and on receiving the boxes, they share their feedback on what they liked and disliked. Our algorithm leverages both positive and negative feedback. Especially when the items are returned, our customers share why they didn’t like the item; it could be the fit, colour, pattern and sometimes even budget. These inputs are then fed back into our algorithm to create better and more personalised future experiences,” Gao explained.

Mr. Draper has also created an option for customers to visit its showroom for one-on-one, free of cost, styling session. They can get the stylists’ advice, try on the clothes from more than 15 brands and make a purchase on the spot. “We noticed that some of our customers enjoyed this experience. They also ended up spending double, compared to the boxes ordered online. Thus, we organise pop-ups in collaboration with VIDA Hotels in Downtown Dubai and Emirates Hills, thereby creating an omnichannel shopping environment,” Gao shared.

Going forward in 2020, Mr. Draper plan to expand into the Saudi Arabia market. “We also plan to leverage our technology offline in a brick-and-mortar environment, preferably around communities, in the long-term. In the short term, however, to raise awareness about the type of service we offer, we would like to get into high-traffic locations,” Gao concluded.